Polar Bear: A Summery Odyssey, is (mostly) a spectacular film

Adam Ravetch’s new film Polar Bear: A Summer Odyssey is spectacular, except for one little thing.

Ravetch and his team have used a marvelous assortment of filmmaking know-how to get extraordinary footage of polar bears. They also managed to tell a very important story. I hope it helps people see the very real impacts climate change is having on our planet right now.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch the film for free on the Nature of Things website. I am also excited to report that the film crew used the expertise of two of my guiding buddies, Andrew McPherson and Terry Elliot.

Aren’t polar bears spectacular enough without dubbed-in roars?

I was slightly disappointed with all the roaring, grunting and other “polar bear sounds” that were dubbed into the film. Polar bears simply don’t make such profuse vocalizations, with very few exceptions.  This kind of exaggeration is not unique to this film. Wildlife films are rife with this sort of thing.

There is no question that it is very difficult to capture wildlife behavior on film, and filmmakers sometimes must take certain liberties. But isn’t the sight of two sparring polar bears stunning enough without extraneous roaring sounds (that the bears most certainly were not making)?

Documentary or Edutainment?

This film has very minor offenses compared to some of the major fabrications and that have occurred in wildlife films over the years. And I do not mean to be overly critical of Ravetch’s brilliant work. It is not really his fault. The film-making industry has created a context wherein people expect this kind of thing. But this small misrepresentation is still a falsification of sorts, and is an example of how many wildlife films are are not pure documentary.

It can be persuasively argued that this “edutainment” approach is the only way to get the attention of today’s attention-deficient society.  You know, break a few eggs to make an omelet. I do see the validity of this point of view, but it does makes the purist in me wince just a little.

The problem is that most people probably won’t care about these little distortions. They won’t care because they don’t know any better; most people don’t have much personal experience with the behaviour of polar bears or other wildlife. Yet in an age when many people’s experiences of nature are handed to them through digital media, I think the creators of that media have a responsibility to ensure that what they are producing is an reasonable reflection of the nature of the creatures in their films.

Planning a trip to Churchill to see polar bears?  Get in touch before you book, and I can give you the “guide’s perspective” on the best trips out there.

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